When our home phone would ring on Saturday morning I knew it was probably my future wife’s grandfather, Hubert Sparks, calling. He called my dad almost every Saturday morning. He didn’t call to complain, make a suggestion, or ask for anything; he called because he was genuinely interested in the welfare of his pastor. “Sparks here, pastor. Just calling to see how you and your family are doing. How can I be praying for you today?” The conversations were always short and to the point, and my dad always hung up feeling better. Hubert Sparks was the most encouraging man I’ve ever met.
The ministry of encouragement seems to be a lost art, replaced by the art of networking. Every relationship needs to be milked for all its worth. Who does this person know? What can they teach me? How can they help me or my organization get ahead? Lip service is given to his well-being, but what we really want is information and connection. I love networking and helping others, but I find myself getting cynical when every email, text or phone call begins, “I was wondering if we could get together? I have something I want to run past you.”
This week I had the chance to catch up with some old friends in Charleston. None of them wanted or needed anything from me, and I wasn’t trying to learn, grow or network. We were just friends swapping stories, hurts and prayers. I walked away from each conversation refreshed and encouraged. It made me wonder who am I encouraging? Who loves to get my call or text because they know I’m just checking to see how they’re doing? Who looks forward to getting together for coffee because they know they will walk away encouraged?
The interesting thing is that encouragement is a biblical imperative:
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
Who are you encouraging? Who are you building up? Who do you connect with on a regular basis with no agenda other than a genuine interest in their life? We all need a Grandpa Sparks in our lives.